Editor’s note: This is part of a continuing series on senior citizen business owners in the Mon Valley area.
Leonard “Skip” Pirilla Jr., 73, has seen many changes at Perry Drug Store over the years. His pharmacy moved to a larger building in 1951 and later expanded to offer immunizations, medication therapy management and durable medical equipment.
But one thing remains unchanged at Perry Drug Store. Pirilla, along with his team of pharmacists and support staff, continues to offer friendly service that is personalized for each of his customers.
“For the past 75 years, we have been living by the same motto at Perry Drug Store,” he said. “We tell our customers that Perry Drug Store is a place where they become friends with us. And our friendly staff aim to make that true for every person who steps through our doors.”
Pirilla, who grew up in Perryopolis and graduated from Frazier High School, now lives in Rostraver Township. He said he has learned many important lessons from his father, Leonard Pirilla Sr, who opened Perry Drug Store in 1941.
“My father was more than just an excellent pharmacist,” Pirilla said. “He also knew how to work with people. “He always made sure that everyone’s needs were taken care of. That made a deep impression on me.”
After graduating from West Virginia University with a bachelor’s degree in education, Pirilla taught physical education in Elizabeth Forward for five years before working on his pharmacy degree at the University of Pittsburgh. He took over ownership of Perry Drug Store in 1976 and has been filling prescriptions there ever since.
“It has been very rewarding to continue our family’s tradition of providing pharmacy services for the residents of Perryopolis and the surrounding communities,” said Pirilla.
Today, Perry Drug Store does more than just dispensing prescriptions. It also provides pharmacist consulting, medication therapy management, Medicare Part B services, medication synchronization, adult vaccines, blister packaging, durable medical equipment and over-the-counter items. In addition, it offers a full selection of health and wellness items, greeting cards, gift items, Yankee Candles, photo printing, light snacks and cold beverages.
Perry Drug Store is one of the few remaining corner drug stores that are independently owned. Pirilla noted that it is the mail order pharmacies, rather than the large retail chains, that are driving smaller drug stores out of business.
“People are increasingly being forced to order their prescription drugs by mail order,” said Pirilla. “Mail order companies promise consumers they will save money but that’s often not the case. Furthermore, mail order companies are notorious for making mistakes. On top of that, consumers have lost that one-on-one interaction with their local pharmacist.”
Pirilla said at the store, he and the employees there get a chance to know customers and personalize service for them.
“Whenever a customer has a question, we are always there to help,” he said.
That personalized service has paid great dividends for Perry Drug Store. “Our customers are very loyal and we are now serving the fifth generation of many local families,” said Pirilla.
Perry Drug Store is truly a family affair, Pirilla’s wife, Marie, handles the bookkeeping while his sister Pam Seydor fills in on the pharmacy rotation a few hours each week. In addition, his grandson Tyler and granddaughter Caitlyn are attending college and preparing for pharmacy careers.
While Pirilla has gradually cut down the number of hours he spends behind the pharmacist’s bench, he still works at his drug store almost every day. “I consider myself in retirement training, so I’m not quite ready to quit working,” he said. “Working helps me to keep younger, and it’s easier now because I have more flexibility with my schedule.”
Pirilla added that he owns the Perryopolis Auto Auction and Flea Market, along with his brother, Brian Pirilla, and sisters, Pam Seydor and Kathleen Kifer.
When asked if he has any advice for seniors who want to keep active, Pirilla repeats a tip he got from one of his former employees.
“I was told that before you go to bed, you should know what you are going to do the next morning,” he said. “That’s a good strategy for anyone to follow. It gives you something to look forward to the next day.”